Unemployment in the eurozone rose to a 15-year high of 10.9 per cent in March, driven by lay-offs in Italy and Spain, and economists said worse was to come as the impact of the debt crisis extracts an ever greater toll. The jobless rate in the 17 nations using the single currency increased by a tenth of a per centage point from February, as expected by economists polled by Reuters, the EU’s statistics office Eurostat reported on Wednesday. The figures translate into 17.4 million people unemployed in the eurozone, and 24.8 million out of work across the 27-nation EU, where the unemployment rate held steady at 10.2 per cent. The last time unemployment was so high was in February, March and April 1997, before the euro was introduced. It has never risen above that level in data stretching back to the start of 1995, but economists forecast it would soon do so. The eurozone jobless total has now risen every one of the past 11 months, leaving the number of out work equal to the entire population of the Netherlands. Within the eurozone, unemployment also rose in Cyprus, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal. It was unchanged in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Malta and fell in Austria, Ireland, Slovakia and Slovenia. There was no data for Estonia or Greece. The EU and eurozone labour market contrasts with that of the United States, where the jobless rate has fallen to 8.2 per cent, from 9.1 per cent in mid-2011. He added the figures were likely to prompt a debate about a ‘growth pact’ for Europe. The European Commission’s spokesman on employment, Jonathan Todd, described the latest jobless figures as very worrying. Meanwhile, companies in the US added the fewest number of workers in seven months in April, a reminder the job market will take time to strengthen, a private report based on payrolls showed on Wednesday. Employment increased by 119,000 following a revised 201,000 gain the prior month, according to figures from Roseland, New Jersey-based ADP Employer Services. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a 170,000 advance.